Friday, March 11, 2016

Rummel Creek Students Bike Brigade to School

Text/photos courtesy Rummel Creek’s Shannon Otermat

On a foggy Friday in January, throngs of students and parents from Houston’s Rummel Creek Elementary met up for the school’s first official Bike Brigade.

When school resumed after the winter holidays, avid biker and former owner of Bicycle World of Houston, Chris Holmes wanted to ensure that students were able to bike to school safely. The kids were returning to their original campus after their school had been rebuilt with funds from a bond program. They had been away from the neighborhood location for 18 months, and many kids, ranging from pre-k to fifth graders, were excited to be able to bike to the new school.

Holmes, who is also active on the school’s PTA, coordinated a neighborhood Bike Brigade. He even hosted a pre-Brigade “bicycle check” event, where kids stopped by his house to make sure bikes were in good working order, tires were inflated and helmets were being put on correctly.

“We have seen a major decline in the amount of young kids who are interested in riding bikes, and as a parent I want to do what I can to encourage our youth to live active lifestyles and safely ride bikes,” said Holmes. “I was involved nationally with a program called Safe Routes to School, and I helped get funding for this program in order to help get more kids on bikes and to provide things like sidewalks and crosswalks, and this experience lead me to develop our community Bike Brigade.”

"We've seen a drastic decline in the number of children walking and bicycling to school in the U.S.—down from about 50 percent forty years ago, to just 15 percent today," said Texas Transportation Institute Senior Administrative Coordinator Michelle Hoelscher, who coordinates the Safe Routes Texas (SRTS) Network.

The Federal SRTS Program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again. The Program makes funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school.

“We have the perfect neighborhood for riding bikes to school. My hope is that this teaches kids and my son that they can ride their bikes around the neighborhood in a safe manner. In addition, the Bike Brigade will help develop confidence and foster safe biking habits,” added Holmes.

He estimates that more than 100 students are biking to Rummel Creek Elementary each day, and he’s doing his part to make sure they are doing it safely.


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